WSJ Contest — Friday, May 21, 2021

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: 15 minutes (plus 15 more for the full “click”)  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Please State Your Full Name” — Conrad’s review

This week we’re told, The answer to this week’s contest crossword is a five-letter word. There are five  long themers:

  • [17a: Joyous exultation]: OHHAPPYDAY
  • [25a: Response to “I’m on the other line”]: CALLMEBACK
  • [36a: Necessary]:DERIGUEUR
  • [50a: Zoom meeting greeting]: HIEVERYONE
  • [59a: Hospital patient’s wear]: IDBRACELET

I spotted two-letter “State” abbreviations at the beginning of each themer: OHHAPPYDAY, CALLMEBACK, etc. I had noted 1d (FIO) as odd fill while completing the grid (unusual fill is sometimes meta-related), and saw that the last two letters completed the “Full Name” of OHIO, leaving an “F”: OH(F)IO. I chased down three more themers: DELAW(F)ARE, HAWAI(T)I, and IDAHO(Y). Then I got stuck on the CA (California) in CALLMEBACK. The (apparent) mechanism would require the letters LIFORNIA (plus one more) to appear in the grid… and they don’t.

My partial meta solve spelled “F.FTY” (and there are FIFTY states), so I was sure I had the right idea, but was probably missing a nuance in the mechanism. Rescanning the themers I spotted other state abbreviations: DERIGUEUR contains RI, and ME appears in CALLMEBACK. ME + IAIN  would complete the theme: M(I)AINE. So… why ME and not CA, and why didn’t RI matter?

The full “click” arrived when I saw that each themer contains a two letter word/acronym that was also a state abbreviation: OH HAPPY DAY, CALL ME BACK, etc. The leftover letters spell FIFTY, our meta solution:


I suspect I’m not the only muggle who solved 80% of the meta before working out the final kink: please feel free to state how you did in the comments. We’ll end on a Spiritual High (State Of Independence) Pt. II, by the Moodswings featuring Chrissie Hynde, covering Jon & Vangelis (and also famously covered by Donna Summer).




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15 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 21, 2021

  1. David Roll says:

    I didn’t get the meta, but I am surprised at 1A–I think that many of us know what the “F” word stands for when you add “ed.” Not complaining–just surprised.

    • Barry says:

      My first thought was snafu, which offers the same issue. At least few people under 50 do these, haha.

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      We were also shocked, whether the answer was Fubar or Snafu. Just goes to show you the kind of language Gaffney thinks is appropriate. For shame.

    • Neil B says:

      What is wrong with Fouled Up beyond All Recognition

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I don’t go out of my way to put vulgar language in grids, but this is 1940s military slang and does have a “clean” version with the F representing “fouled.” It was really the only way I could find to make that corner (and indeed the whole puzzle) work out well.

  2. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    I suspect that they intentionally put California in the clues at 45-down to make it extra clear that it couldn’t be a theme answer. But yeah, I got stuck on CA before working it out.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Yeah, that’s a ding. You don’t want to have four theme entries work one way (two-letter word at the beginning) and only one work another (two-letter word somewhere else). True, they’re the only two-letter words in the entries so it’s technically OK, but definitely suboptimal.

      I’m trying to remember what I was thinking. I had many iterations and was aware of not leaving anything 4-1 like this (5-0 is fine, 3-2 is fine, 4-1 is not) but I probably stupidly changed one at the last minute and thought I had 3-2 when I was actually at 4-1.

      My daughter was around 8 weeks old when I made this so probably “Baby Brain”…

      • David Plass says:

        Also, another nitpicky nit, is that “I.D.” is an abbreviation, and the other words (OH, HI, ME, DE) were all full words.

  3. Jeff J says:

    I didn’t get this one, got fixated on the CA and didn’t spot any of the state name remainders to boot.
    I also went down a rabbit hole with the last grid entry, strep (ST REP, State Rep??) thinking the answer might be hidden in some politicians’ names!

  4. Tom says:

    Gosh, as far as I’m concerned this was an EXCELLENT puzzle with a clear mechanism. After several doofus attempts to shoehorn in another path you have to go back and say:
    5 letter word needed
    5 long answers available
    Each of the two letters is a state
    The title says “PLEASE STATE YOUR FULL NAME”, parsed differently it is “PLEASE STATE, YOUR FULL NAME”
    So how do I get the remaining letters of each state from the GRID and also get a letter I can use to solve?

    If you have done these for a while you have seen the “use another word in the GRID with one extra or one less letter to get your needed answer letter). LAWFARE and FIO were just too “out there” not to have some pertinence.

    I did trip over the California stumbling block, but (1) that is WAY too many hard letters to hide in a single word (I mean BRAVO for LAWFARE but how often can lightning strike) and by that time I had F?FTY so I knew what he answer should be. That is when I saw that there was no inconsistency (5-0, 3-2, 2-1-2, etc. be darned) ALL of the states were in the TWO letter word in EACH long entry. Plus IAIN is a great Crossword word given all its vowels BUT I have not seen it before in any puzzles I’ve done so another flashing light.

    Oh, and FUBAR – REALLY, you are upset about FUBAR? If you ONLY use the vulgar version (or that is the only one you know) that is not a commentary on Matt Gaffney. If you have read any novel, seen any movie, watched any late night TV, been to any concert, heck even been to the grocery store when someone is not getting their way you have heard worse, LOTS worse.

  5. Tom says:

    My bad – sorry. People seem to take umbrage at the oddest things in crosswords. I mistook sarcasm for criticism. That is the problem with messages, they are all text and no context.

  6. Kevin Bryant says:

    *So* happy to have found this page. My wife and I have begun trying these “contest” puzzles of late, but the “samples” struck me as being far more “doable” than what the last few seemed to have been. The “getting ashore”, “Muggles” page’s cryptic stuff just left me (mostly) even *more* ticked off over my apparent stupidity. :-)

    But, seeing Matt’s comments above and, especially Tom’s, I may now be prepared to give this contest thing another go. Hasn’t helped that my wife has been able to “get” the explanations of the “tricks” more readily than I. :-)

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